29 Best Sights in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Historic Third Ward

Fodor's choice

This neighborhood, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is close to the Milwaukee River and is made up of a mix of large, often historic buildings that were formerly furniture store warehouses. Many have been restored and now house upscale shops, restaurants, and condos as the area transforms into an arts district. Old-fashioned street lamps illuminate the area, and a small park and a pedestrian mall along Broadway Street strike a verdant note. The ward is also home to the Milwaukee Public Market on Water Street and St. Paul Avenue and the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (273 E. Erie St.)

Milwaukee Art Museum

Fodor's choice

Located on the lakefront, this museum houses collections of paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, and decorative arts. Its permanent collection emphasizes European and American art of the 19th and 20th centuries. A soaring 2001 addition hosts major traveling exhibitions and includes a set of graceful "wings" that open during the day to let light stream into the gallery. The museum's lower-level café is a glass-walled promontory that faces the lake. Here, you can order light lunch or take a mid-afternoon coffee and dessert break. The addition also includes performance space, and the museum hosts dance, installation art, and other performances. Visit at noon to watch the building's wings flap.


Fodor's choice

Frank Lloyd Wright built his summer residence about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Milwaukee (Taliesin West was his winter home in Arizona). The famed architect's estate is made up of five buildings showcasing classic elements of his organic style on Wright's family land, with the main house rising gently from a hilltop. Seeking a more private life, the artist left Oak Park, Illinois in 2011 and began construction but the living quarters of Taliesin were rebuilt later twice after fires destroyed part of the building. For some insight into his personal life, be sure to read the Loving Frank, a novel by Nancy Horan about Wright's real-life relationship with Mamah Cheney. You can only experience the property through a tour—choose from exploring the house, hillside studio and theater, or entire estate—and reservations are recommended. The visitor center includes a cafe and a bookstore with great gifts for any fan of Wright's work. Check the website for detailed directions, the address has been known to confuse GPS systems.

Recommended Fodor's Video

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church

This church was Frank Lloyd Wright's last major work; the famed Wisconsin architect called it his "little jewel." Since it opened in 1961, the blue-domed Byzantine-style church has drawn visitors from all over the world.

Betty Brinn Children's Museum

Overlooking Lake Michigan, this well-conceived children's museum epitomizes the concept of hands-on learning. Playing on Wisconsin's agricultural economy, the museum lets kids learn the basics of commerce in an exhibit where they pick and sell play apples. Other perennial favorites are the BodyWorks exhibit, with its amusingly graphic mock-ups of bodily functions; nimble kids can crawl through a huge heart to see how blood flows from one chamber to another. Toddler play spaces are well protected from the general flow of traffic.

Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion

Venture back in time to Milwaukee's mighty brewing days with a tour of this 37-room Flemish Renaissance Revival mansion. Built in 1892 for beer baron Frederick Pabst, its heavily ornamented stone exterior leads to an interior that lives up to its fancy trimmings. Once the center of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee and, in the 1970s, narrowly saved from demolition, it now reveals an extensive art collection, not to mention the magnificence of decorating details including brass doorknobs, cast iron air ducts, mosaic marble floors, and glass rondel windows.

2000 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI, 53233, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: $9; seniors and students $8; children 6-17 $5; under 6 free; prices are $1 more during Christmas season

Charles Allis & Villa Terrace Art Museums

Perched on a bluff overlooking its own sweeping lawn and Lake Michigan beyond, this museum is a 1920s era replica of an Italian villa. Roam the house's wings and enjoy the view of its Renaissance-style gardens from any of its balconies.

Charles Allis Art Museum

Inside a Tudor-style house built in 1911, with stained-glass windows by Milwaukee Glass Company, this museum houses a stunning international collection of paintings and objets d'art, including works by major 19th- and 20th-century French and American painters.

Daniel M. Soref Planetarium

Daniel M. Soref Planetarium

800 W. Wells St., Milwaukee, WI, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Museum $11, IMAX $8 ($10 feature films), Planetarium $8

Discovery World

You could easily spend an entire day exploring this museum's aquariums and innovative exhibits that show how engineers apply science to real-life situations. The Reiman Family Aquariums follow the voyage of the S/V Denis Sullivan, a three-masted schooner that summers next to Discovery World. Don't miss the Great Lakes Future exhibit, an exact-scale model of the watershed that holds 20 percent of the world's freshwater. The technology building features interactive exhibits such as a bed of nails, a 3-D facial scanner, and the "Rockwell Automation Dream Machine," which shows how Milwaukee landmarks use automation.

Eisner American Museum of Advertising & Design

Advertising is demystified through the museum's exhibits on psychographics, campaign development, and the impact of advertising on popular culture (and vice versa). The museum is in the Third Ward, a few blocks south of Downtown proper.

Friday's Front Row Sports Grill

On non-game days, you can still tour the park, buy souvenirs from the Fan Zone, or enjoy a meal at Friday's Front Row Sports Grill, overlooking left field.

Harley-Davidson Museum

The first Harley rumbled onto the road in 1903, riding a path to history and the hearts of millions of motorcycle enthusiasts. See that past rev to life in the exhibits of this fascinating and fun museum, showcasing more than 450 Harleys through the ages, including the Serial Number One, the oldest in existence. The "Custom Culture" gallery looks at some of the most creatively customized bikes of celebrities like Elvis Presley; the "Experience Gallery" gives visitors a chance to sit on a Harley; and "Imagination Station" is all about getting kids going HOG wild. The Motor Bar and Restaurant fuels appetites with all-American meals like burgers, wings and chili.

400 W. Canal St., Milwaukee, WI, 53201, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: $16; children 5-17 $10; under 5 free with an adult; seniors 65 and up and military and students $12

Historic Milwaukee, Inc

Take a walking tour of one of Milwaukee's vivid neighborhoods, such as Brady Street, the Historic Third Ward, or Lake Drive, or embark on evocatively titled tours like "Naughty Ladies of Beertown" or "Gargoyles, Grotesques & Dragons." Walking tours generally last 1½ hours. Some tours require reservations, and tickets are either $7 or $20, depending on the type of tour.

Marquette University

Founded in 1881, Marquette University provides a Jesuit-based urban education for more than 10,000 students per year. The school's 59 campus buildings are concentrated on the western border of Downtown, and the St. Joan of Arc Chapel is on campus. Marquette is also the home of Jesu Church, a Milwaukee landmark. Marquette Hall's 48-bell carillon is near the center of campus.

Miller Park

No matter how the Brewers are doing, fans still flock here to enjoy one of the best baseball experiences in the country. A fan-shaped retractable roof keeps everyone comfortable rain or shine (or freezing April temperatures), and there isn't a bad seat in the four-level, 42,000-capacity house. Watch Bernie Brewer slide out of his dugout above the left-field bleachers after homeruns, and don't miss the famous Klement's Racing Sausages before the seventh inning.

Milwaukee County Zoo

Inside this enormous park are more than 3,000 wild animals and birds—including several endangered species—plus educational programs, narrated tram tours, and miniature-train rides. Japanese snow monkeys occupy their own island, and the grizzly bears are reliably entertaining. The hands-on children's area focuses on dairy animals (this is Wisconsin, after all), but there are many other critters to pet and hold.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

It's not hard to believe this newspaper press was the largest in North America when it began operations in 2003. At 400 feet long and eight stories high, the $110-million press can print up to 85,000 newspapers an hour. Watch papers zip through the press and travel by conveyer belt across the ceiling, glimpse 10-foot vats of color and black ink, and marvel at the robots that push giant reels of paper between stations. The tour is especially popular with school groups and Scout troops.

Milwaukee Public Library

Near the Business District, the building is an impressive example of the neo-Renaissance style; it was built between 1893 and 1898 by the architectural firm Ferry & Clas.

Milwaukee Public Market

Historic Third Ward

This indoor market's vendors offer items as exotic as Bulgarian seasonings and as down-home as Wisconsin-made apple butter. Take in the bustling atmosphere as you sip coffee in the balcony dining area and plot your plan of attack. The market hosts cooking demonstrations throughout the year in its model kitchen, and there's a seasonal outdoor market. The market is located on the edge of the Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward.

Milwaukee Public Museum

Considered among the best natural history museums in the country, this museum houses more than 6 million specimens and artifacts. One hallmark is the "Streets of Old Milwaukee," depicting the city in the 1890s. Cul-de-sacs showcase domestic settings representing the ethnic groups that have settled Milwaukee, such as Greek, Scandinavian, and German. At the candy shop, you can buy penny candy, stick candy, and other old-fashioned favorites. Explore the two-story rain forest, and examine the levels of tropical life from the ground to the treetops. "Third Planet," complete with full-size dinosaurs, lets visitors walk into the Earth's interior to learn about its history. Butterflies fly free in their own enclosed habitat, and visitors can walk among them. The museum also houses the Humphrey IMAX Dome Theater and the

Milwaukee River Cruise Line

Like the Chicago River, Milwaukee's namesake waterway has become a focal point of its downtown. From the Edelweiss boats, you can view the city skyline, learn some Brew City history or dance the night away. Themed cruises include a Margarita Fiesta, Beer and Brats, Kids Caribbean Pirate Cruise, and the Dinner Cruise, a primo pick for dates. Most cruises pick up passengers at the Highland Avenue dock, but check your cruise departure information before heading there, as others leave from the Port of Call Bistro at 106 W. Wells Street. Arrive about 30 minutes before tour time.

205 W. Highland Ave., Milwaukee, WI, 52303, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: $16 for Historic Milwaukee Boat Tour; $8 for children; call for other cruise prices

Mitchell Park Conservatory

Known to locals simply as "The Domes," the conservatory consists of three 85-foot-high glass domes that house tropical, arid, and seasonal plants and flowers. Its lilies and poinsettias are spectacular at Easter and Christmas, respectively.

River Walk Boat Tours and Rentals

Cruise the Milwaukee River on the 45-seat Brew City Queen or the 20-seat Milwaukee Maiden; you can also rent a private pontoon. Nightly sunset cruises include drinks and snacks, while weekend brewery tours let you sample beers at three Milwaukee microbreweries.

Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

Forests, ponds, marshland, and trails attract nature lovers to this 185-acre wildlife area and environmental research center, which is along Lake Michigan north of Downtown.

St. Joan of Arc Chapel

This small, stone 15th-century chapel with tiny stained-glass windows was moved from its original site near Lyon, France, to Long Island in 1927. In 1964, the chapel was dismantled stone by stone and reconstructed here in a courtyard at Marquette University. One of the stones was reputedly kissed by Joan before she was sent to her death and is discernibly colder than the others.

St. Josephat's Basilica

Built at the turn of the 20th century, this basilica has a copper dome modeled after the one atop St. Peter's in Rome. Inside is a collection of relics, statues, and European icons.

The Pabst

Built in 1895 and remodeled in 1976, this Downtown Victorian theater—which presents top musical and theatrical entertainment—is on the National Register of Historic Places. Of special note is its giant Austrian-crystal chandelier.

The Pabst Mansion

Completed in 1892 for beer baron Captain Frederick Pabst, this is one of Milwaukee's treasured landmarks. The 37-room Flemish Renaissance–style mansion, designed by the architectural firm Ferry & Clas, has a tan pressed-brick exterior with carved-stone and terra-cotta ornamentation. Inside, no surface is left undecorated. Walls are swathed in elaborately textured and painted coverings, every window has multiple swags and shades, and stained-glass windows bear sayings (in German) exhorting servants to work hard. In the adjacent gift shop, pick up the ultimate Milwaukee souvenir: an amber glass beer stein Christmas tree ornament with glittery foam.